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Formal foundation will be flushed away

The Welsh Assembly's reforms are helping the principality to fashion its own educational identity, writes Adi Bloom

TOILET-training and playing sociably will take priority over reading and writing in a new Welsh early-years curriculum.

The new foundation stage for three to seven-year-olds will replace the foundation and key stage 1 phases shared with England where tests mark the end of the stage.

Wales abolished KS1 testing last year. Its early-years and KS1 assessment will focus on children's achievements in seven areas of educational and social development. These include personal and social development and well-being, knowledge and understanding of the world, physical development, creative development and bilingual and multicultural understanding.

Language, literacy, communication skills and mathematical development will also be checked. Many of the objectives are informal.

Children will learn through play and will be taught about their own bodies and health as well as how to go to the toilet themselves and to blow their own noses.

Classrooms should provide one adult for every eight children, and at foundation level teachers should have studied child development to degree level.

Jane Davidson, Welsh Assembly minister for education and lifelong learning, said: "Too often, children are introduced to formal skills before they are ready, with the risk of losing confidence and a love of learning.

"Children need more opportunities to learn through finding out about things that interest them, rather than focusing solely on what is determined by others."

Margaret Hanney, senior lecturer in early-years education at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, said: "This is a chance to do something refreshing and in tune with what children need."

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